It never rains forever. And know that, however wet you get, you are not the rain.
You are not the bad feelings in your head. You are the person experiencing the storm.
The storm may knock you off your feet.
But you will stand again.
Hold on.From The Comfort Book, Matt Haig
Have you ever felt like life has knocked you off your feet? I’m sure you have. We all face storms in life. We all walk through crises or traumas–the loss of a job, the betrayal of a spouse or partner, the death of a loved one, or a worldwide pandemic.
When a storm hits, that old fight or flight response kicks in and we either begin to fight or run or freeze.
When the storm keeps going, there’s a collective mental health toll from everything that hits us. Feelings can be numbed. We can experience spikes in anxiety and depression. Or develop a desire to drastically change something (or everything) in our lives.
It’s easy to imagine that we’ll never get back up again. That we can never start over. That life will never get better. That unless there are major changes, life will not feel satisfying again.
We’ve all been learning how to face storms in the last couple of years through a major, unprecedented, global crisis. We’ve all been affected in some way, even though the specific circumstances look different to each one of us.
For many of us, the layers are deeper than just one thing. It’s not just the pandemic, or the lockdowns, or the separation from loved ones, or the loss of significant others, or the loss of a business or job–it’s the layers of stuff that combine into one big storm.
Six Ways to Survive the Storm
1. This Too Shall Pass
Nothing stays the same forever. Reflecting on past challenging or painful experiences and on how we survived, can help us to see that we are resilient.
Reminding ourselves of how we made it through can give us hope that the current storm will pass and help us to draw on our inner strength.
2. Give Thanks
Practising gratitude is an important tool to survive the storms of life. If we focus on gratefulness it can give a little perspective. There are many benefits of gratefulness.
Gratefulness contributes to an overall sense of well-being. It improves our physical and mental health, has positive mental health outcomes, and can improve our relationships.
There are many ways to develop a gratefulness practice. Make lists and speak these words of appreciation out loud. Begin a daily journal, meditate or pray, create a vision board. Whatever you do, just be grateful for something every day.
3. Make The Storm a Lesson
If we reframe our storms as a time of retreat or learning we can perhaps regain a sense of control, even if it’s partial. As a writer, I often write about what I’m going through and usually, something jumps out at me–a lesson, a story, an idea, some perspective, gratefulness.
Coping with difficult circumstances and emotions seems more manageable to me if I can make some sense out of it.
Perhaps you draw or sing or play an instrument or create quote memes on Instagram–whatever you do, use the storms of life to create or learn something.
Even if you don’t believe in God or subscribe to any particular religion, prayer and meditation are rituals that can help us to pause, gain perspective, and express gratitude.
Anne Lamott’s book Help, Thanks, Wow outlines three prayers we should all say. The prayers are simply: help, thanks, and wow–asking for assistance, appreciating the good we witness, and feeling awe at the world.
Prayer is not a guarantee that the storm will stop or that everything will be fixed, but prayer can feed our soul, ease a hurting heart, and help us to keep standing during the storms of life.
5. Change Something About Your Life
Even if we can’t change the big things during a storm, it’s good to do at least one thing differently. Change that is thrust upon us can cause us to feel out of control, whereas a change we introduce by choice creates a sense of empowerment.
During Covid and the resulting grounding of my usual travels, I’ve taken up Italian, completed a song writing course, and embarked on a few physical challenges, amongst other tweaks to my daily routines.
If your default is to work harder and harder and harder to push through a storm, then you may need to create a space of rest in your life. Whether it’s a few minutes of deep breathing, sitting out in the sun and reading a book, taking a nap, or giving yourself permission to put your phone or laptop away, create space to rest every day.
Giving yourself permission to rest may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but in the middle of the storm, it can be the wisest choice you make.
Remember, the rain doesn’t last forever. The sun comes out and rainbows light up the sky.